5 Ravens make AFC Pro Bowl team

Rice, McClain, Lewis, Reed, Ngata chosen

Grubbs named 1st alternate

December 30, 2009|By Ken Murray | ken.murray@baltsun.com

One day after coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens are good enough to win the Super Bowl, results of the 2009 Pro Bowl balloting seconded that notion.

Five Ravens, including two first-timers, were named to the AFC team during the NFL Network's Pro Bowl show Tuesday night. Leading the way - as usual - were linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed. Also selected in a vote of players, coaches and fans were defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and running back Ray Rice, both for the first time, and fullback Le'Ron McClain, for the second straight season.

Lewis, Reed, McClain and Ngata all will go as starters. A sixth Raven, guard Ben Grubbs, was named first alternate and would go if the player in front of him cannot play because of injury.

The Pro Bowl will be played Jan. 31 - a week before the Super Bowl - at Dolphin Stadium in South Florida. If the Ravens were to make the Super Bowl, none of their players would play in the game.

Lewis' selection was the 11th in a 14-year career and fourth in a row. He leads the team with 152 tackles, along with three sacks, three forced fumbles and six pass breakups.

"This is always an honor," he said in a statement released by the team. "I don't take it for granted. To be recognized by yours peers, the coaches and the fans is a privilege."

Reed gained his sixth Pro Bowl in eight years even though he missed the past four games with a strained groin. He went in 2008 with an NFL-high nine interceptions; this year he'll go with three. Reed is expected to return to the field for Sunday's regular-season finale in Oakland. The Ravens will clinch an AFC wild-card berth if they beat the Raiders.

While Lewis and Reed have been Pro Bowl mainstays, Ngata earned his first invitation after being overlooked a year ago. In 2008, Ngata was snubbed despite collecting 77 tackles and two interceptions. Through 15 games this season, he has 40 tackles and 1.5 sacks, and saw a streak of 55 consecutive regular-season starts halted.

"I've been working so hard to be one of the best ever since I entered the NFL," Ngata said. "This is unbelievably gratifying and a great honor. As a player in college, you just want to get to the league. If you're fortunate enough to make it to this level, everyone then dreams of going to the Pro Bowl."

The fourth-year veteran then thanked those who most helped him reach the Pro Bowl.

"Without the other D-linemen on our team, I wouldn't be able to do the things I do," he said. "I'm thankful for guys like Kelly Gregg, who has taught me so much about technique and been a great role model. Trevor Pryce, Justin Bannan and Dwan Edwards have helped me grow, and they push me every day. Coach Brooks [defensive line coach Clarence Brooks] is somebody who makes me better and constantly demands the best out of me. None of this is possible without any of these guys, so that's why this is a group award."

Rice goes as a reserve after rushing for 1,269 yards so far in his second NFL season. His 1,952 yards from scrimmage rank second in the NFL behind the Tennessee Titans' Chris Johnson, who will start for the AFC. Rice has produced at least 100 yards from scrimmage in 12 of his 15 games.

"This is such an honor," Rice said. "Even though I'm going as an individual, I consider this a team award. I want to thank all my teammates and coaches who have made this possible. Growing up, I dreamed of playing in the NFL, but making the Pro Bowl is surreal. I've always played the game in hopes of earning other people's respect, and knowing that the fans, coaches and players voted for me is humbling. I promise to represent the Ravens organization and the city of Baltimore by continuing to do nothing but my best."

McClain went to the Pro Bowl in 2008 after rushing for 902 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns. This season, he goes as the lead blocker for Rice.

The Pro Bowl had been played in Honolulu since 1980 - a stretch of 30 years - before the league moved it to Dolphin Stadium, which is also the site of this season's Super Bowl.

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